Ways of seeing
(This is the fifth in the Hornbill series. Apologies for the delay in the uploading…several reasons, including the really, terrifically crazy rockfest finals the day before. And whatever afterwards…)Somebody akined cars to a tin box. By extension trains would be jolly rides with Tutankhamen and flights, plush cells. So, I decided to give the cultural fare a miss on the fifth day and explore Kohima town. On foot.
“Which is the way to the Cathedral?” I asked the first pretty lady I met when I started from Naga Bazaar where I was staying.
“Oh, it will take you half an hour,” she replied in the typical clipped English of the north east with lots of coy thrown in. “That is if you are taking a taxi.”
“Can you give me the directions, please?” I insisted. “You know, like which way?”
“Oh, you need to know the way,” she laughed more at her miscomprehension than my plight. “That is simple, just go straight.” She hurried away so she could laugh with abandon. After over an hour of walking, I was finally sauntering up the Aradurah Hill, the top of which was the largest church in north east India. On the way I passed by dapper students – boys looking like Beckhams of Mongoloid descent and girls with practised unawareness of their charms. The city had dolled itself up for the annual gala: there were hastily put up welcome hoardings and competition announcements. What really made my day was an installation which I chanced upon – Under Scrutiny – which I would have definitely missed had I been in a car / tin box. Quite a thought provoking work with lot of effort thrown in, besides the mechanics involved. ‘Kohima View Point with Safe Drinking Water’, the signage announced in bold white lettering against a blue jaded by the sun. While I wasn’t exactly thirsty on the foggy morning, I could any day do with a lovely view. However the promise was nothing to crow about: just a chaos of tin roofs punctuated with haphazard concrete dwellings. Of course, there stood the churches like dainty nobles scurrying amidst wanting plebeians. Lording over them all was the Police Headquarters with its regal blue slating roof. As I went up the Minister’s Road which led to the Cathedral, I passed by a migrant family running a tea shop in a tin-sheet ramshackle and living in it. At the threshold of a miniature side door to the tea shop, two girls sat looking and smiling at me. I just stood staring back happily at them; it took a while to dawn on me that I had a camera. The migrants to Nagaland are mostly Assamese who take up menial daily wage work or semi skilled labour. The famed Naga hospitality makes them feel at home where they set out to chart a new future. “I-M-L-Y,” Imly spelt out the name for me. Imly was carrying a pup to the veterinarian in Kohima as I was making the final assault to the Cathedral at Aradurah Hill.
“Oh, he is not feeling well,” Imly said when I enquired after the sweet mutt that submitted itself meekly to Imly’s arms.
“Must be the weather,” I shared my expertise in matters canine.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Imly replied, lost. “Whatever it is, I don’t want anything to happen to him. That’s why I am taking him to the doctor.”
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen to him,” I said. “What is his name?”
“He doesn’t have a name,” Imly said. “What’s the big deal about a name?” I stood watching Imly sashaying softly downhill like a scene straight out of a Paris sidewalk. Then that was Nagaland – a cauldron of style and strange loves.